Puppy Sees, Puppy Does: An intro to owning several dogs
How we ended up with two dogs:
My wife and I have always been infamous "dog people." Starting as early as the days of learning to walk and talk, it quickly became apparent that I would soon share a dialect with man's best friend. I, of course, mean this is the most literal sense. It was by no means a stretch of my imagination to bark back and forth with our family cocker spaniel, Higgins. Little did I know of his plans to bite into my face. Regardless of the fowl play, I loved him then as much as I do now. The pattern was set that I would always need a dog in my life so long as I could provide them with a good life. I had never imagined having more than one dog, until one day we had two. The following contains a few good lessons in watching our four year old Siberian Husky teach our 12 week old puppy the house rules. And for any of you that know a thing or two about Huskies: the House rules are mostly organized by the husky! (Ours, for example, likes the house run as if it were her own castle.)
As with any other agreement with a third party, be prepared because 'the rules are subject to change at any time without prior notification or obligation by the third party to notify you in such.'
Like Husky, Like Shepherd
Two Dogs for a Happy Home: Tips for (inner-home) serenity
I had always wondered about the combination of a playful, social Siberian Husky, and the noble working German Shepherd in the same house. I have spent a lot of time looking at other people's pictures of these dogs living together and had a growing desire to make it happen. After all, the German Shepherd was the dream dog that I wanted to get once I left the Marine Corps. Little did I expect to have one before graduating college. It was a decision we made that I will never regret.
When we got her, the age gap was nearly four years. Our husky had grown used to having the run of the house and having sole ownership of the property. It was a deal fit for her royalty, which our acts of spoils only made worse. She was the queen of the house. Even though she has lived with other dogs, she was a little confused when we brought the German Shepherd puppy into the house.
How we introduced them, and how they should be introduced, are two different things, but I think the weather kept us from introducing them outside. At least that's the story I'm going with. ;) You want to introduce a new dog to your home in an open area such as the driveway or even in a park so that no territory has been claimed yet and it is a neutral and happy meeting. We, on the other hand, brought Kimber straight inside to meet the princess right away. It was a hesitant greeting, but they were instant friends nonetheless.
Just as we do with our other approaches to dog training, we do our best to redirect when behavior happens that we don't approve of. This can be annoying, as anyone including our dogs might tell you. When they get noisy, I have a habit of getting noisy to interrupt them. The bass and volume in my voice is usually enough to redirect that behavior, because they do not like the feeling of being yelled at. The other thing we do, which happens the most frequently, is to separate the two from each other, as well as from us. This forces them to calm down from their romp and wrestle session. They calm rather quickly, and both prefer to spend time with us, so this strategy is fairly effective. It has wrangled in their wrestling play times from what might seem like wolves fighting, to two quiet animals laying on the ground and gently mouthing each other. Let me tell you, the latter is always prefered indoors! And often times, when this method is called for, both of the dogs get put away. On the occassion we witness one of them get a little rougher than the other, that individual gets removed while the other continues playing innocently.
It can be a fine line making that judgement as dog behavior doesn't always come as common sense. I will give you a link to something that has helped us learn what exactly dog body language consists of. Just as with kids, it can often be difficult to determine who actually "started it" to begin with, hence the removal of both from the situation. The quickest way to train an intelligent dog is not necessarily direct punishment. Often times it is the removal of positive things, such as people, toys, treats, or other dogs, etc. that will show them how to behave in your house. One quick example is how dogs jump to greet you. Puppies are particularly guilty of this. The knee to the chest can be harmful to some breeds more than others, so always start with the following approach:
When jumped on, firmly say no and turn your back to the dog and walk away. Puppies jump up to their mothers faces to seek affection and in the wild, food via regurgitation. Primarily, this is how they like to great their mom as young pups. If this doesn't get the message across to more stubborn dogs, like our German Shepherd, teach them that jumping leads to strain. Again, instead of giving a knee, which can harm deep chested dogs, grab whatever paw/paws touch you and hang on to them for as long as it takes. Dogs aren't built to walk on two legs (for long at least), so they will get tired. They will start to feel the same way you do when you're trying to move a couch into a house and are left standing there holding the thing until people move out of the way. You can choose to be nice and talkative while holding their paws, but I would advise you to stick with a firm, "no jump" once or twice. Once all fours are back on the ground, go back to giving them the love they want. After all, they're just trying to say hi!
Every day our girls get older, we learn a new trick to the beauty of having two dogs in the house. Besides, we better figure the rest out fast, because every time it's our turn in the family to have kids, we buy a dog! ;) Keep an eye open for more lessons from this dynamic duo!
Friends 'Til The End
How many dogs do you have or plan to have?
Dinner for Two: Managing Meal Time for Multiple Dogs
Take this bit with a grain of rice, because caution is always recommended when it comes to feeding your animals. To most animals, food is a sacred thing. For wild animals, it comes in first place for drive and energy consumption. In close second is their need to breed. (But that's a whole nother Hub!)
When you feeding time comes along for two dogs that have only just recently met each other, play it safe and feed them separately at first. Give them time to get to know each other and establish dominance (it's an inevitable thing, because of how the canine social structure mimics that of wolf packs). Initially, you may have no problems if you feed them in the same room, but this is because they are still in the introductory phase. Aggressiveness and protectiveness over food may present itself in anywhere from minutes to months, and anything inbetween. Dogs are so social, that as a puppy grows and matures, the rules for feeding time may change with their demeanor.
In our case, the girls like to take turns making trips to their counterpart's food boal. For some reason, they seam to think the kibble from the other bowl tastes better than what they've got in their own bowl. We discourage this behavior because it has some partial roots in dominance and hierarchy maneuvering. This happens by one of them establishing they can eat out of both or whichever bown they please. Another way of looking at it is that they can claim both food bowls as their own until done eating and may defend both bowls until the kibble quota is met. We don't want this!
As we continued training them to eat out of their own dish, we sat in the middle to intercept the thieves and redirect them back to base (aka their own food). This type of training, via redirecting, takes patience and can be time consuming, but luckily they get as annoyed with the redirection as you will. After so many repetitions of this, the girls became able to have food out in both of their bowls all day without incident. The only trouble is that the German Shepherd eats like a pig during growth spurts, and the husky eats like we might suspect a supermodel does. This has led to occasional thievery, but is easily fixable by giving ice treats or toys as distractions.
The bottom line is to take your time and stay patient. This is a foundation for how you and your multiple dogs will interact for the rest of their lives. And that's a lot of meal times together!
Ice as a Treat
Ice is a great little treat for dogs because the hard surface can help them with plaque (but only a little bit). The bigger benefit is that it helps hydrate them and keeps them entertained from seconds to minutes, depending on your dog. That being said, don't rely on ice to hydrate your dog. One ice cube is merely several ounces of water. Their bodies run at higher temperatures and with higher heart rates than ours (hence shorter lives), so they need more water than us in a day!
Our German Shepherd eats them in 10 seconds while the husky sometimes take 3-4 minutes, or just leaves them laying on the floor where we don't see them! (This leads me to a safety tip: keep an eye out for that ice afterwards! Some people may fall, but most will get a very cold sock!)
The last benefit, and certainly not the least, is the entertainment factor. Watching a puppy pounce on ice on a kitchen floor and chase it as it flies across the room is always good for a laugh! Of course, so is the opposite when the humidity is just right so the ic ends of sticking to their jowl for a second. The look of confusion gets me every time.
You can also add in some chicken broth or other pet friendly flavors to make the ice more enticing. The ball is in your court!
RUN RUN RUN
Exercise is a MUST
It goes almost goes without saying, one dog needs a lot of exercise to stay healthy. What you might not hear very often, is how beneficial fitness is to dog behavior. Physical energy and mental energy converge when dogs play at the park. With wide open spaces to run, they learn to interact with other dogs and are mentally stimulated simply by playing chase. When you have two dogs, utilizing a yard for happy hour will save you in the long run! A tired dog, is a happy dog left with nothing else to do but cuddle on you.